Layul Mountaineers’ and Skiers’ Association: Saving lives of trapped trekkers

first_imgIn September 2005, when four bodies were spotted over the Kangla Glacier, the authorities were perplexed over their identities as nobody had been reported to be missing. The real daunting challenge, however, was to retrieve the bodies from 19,000-ft height. THE BRAVEHEARTS: LMSA volunteersAfter a week-long expedition, the Layul Mountaineers’,In September 2005, when four bodies were spotted over the Kangla Glacier, the authorities were perplexed over their identities as nobody had been reported to be missing. The real daunting challenge, however, was to retrieve the bodies from 19,000-ft height.THE BRAVEHEARTS: LMSA volunteersAfter a week-long expedition, the Layul Mountaineers’ and Skiers’ Association (LMSA) was able to retrieve one body. It was identified as that of a Swedish woman, who had disappeared in the area 23 years ago with three others.The feat earned the search party a pat from the local administration and the Swedish Embassy in Delhi. For LMSA volunteers, however, it was just another mission accomplished.Founded by Norbu Panse, LMSA is a voluntary organisation of natives-farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, lawyers and even priests-based in Keylong, the administrative headquarters of Lahaul-Spiti district which specialises in rescue operations.The organisation was born in the wake of a disaster. In 1979 Lahaul was hit by a series of snow avalanches and landslides that caused more than 250 deaths. The locals had no training in rescue.They depended on teams from outside the valley which could operate only during winters via helicopter. Panse, then a havaldar of Dogra Scouts who had trained at the army’s High Altitude Warfare School at Gulmarg, set up a self-help group in his village Yurnath near Keylong. In 1981, LMSA was born.Himachal PradeshIt focused on adventure sports and trained local youth in rescue techniques. The association now has over 100 volunteers and employs ingenious methods in its operations. These include using “Chhang”, a local brew, to revive those trapped under snow and making goggles out of plastic bags to help victims overcome snow blindness. In the Kangla Glacier operation they used a carry-on gas cylinder to make a sledge to bring down the body.”Our volunteers know the terrain like the back of their hand. Their scattered presence helps in a real-time rescue effort,” says Panse. r    “Helping those in distress is like religion to us,” says trainer and a founding member Bishan Dass.LMSA has become the first port of call for the administration when people get trapped in snow. “They are quite an asset in crisis situations,” says Lahaul-Spiti Superintendent of Police Asif Jalal.But, for the “bravehearts”, saving lives is a way of life.advertisementlast_img

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